Butterfly orchid tree

Butterfly orchid tree

Bauhinia purpurea (Fabaceae)

Common Name:

Butterfly orchid tree

Scientific Name:

Bauhinia purpurea (Fabaceae)

Alternative common names:

Skoenlapperorgideeboom (Afrikaans)


The butterfly orchid tree grows up to 6-10m high. Leaves are thick, deeply divided into two lobes and 100mm long. Flowers are colourful in shades of blotched pink to red striped, as well as cream or purple. They are 80-100mm wide with narrow, non-overlapping petals and three fertile stamens. The fruits consist of green elongated pods which turn dark brown. 

Additional Information

Where does this species come from?


What is its invasive status in South Africa?

Existing legislation: CARA 2002 NEMBA Category 1b in KZN, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape and 3 in rest of SA

Where in South Africa is it a problem?

Butterfly orchid tree is mostly found in KwaZulu- Natal, Gauteng, Limpopo and Mpumalanga Provinces.

How does it spread?

Dispersal is by seeds.

Why is it a problem?

The butterfly orchid tree competes with indigenous species

What does it look like?

General description: A large evergreen tree reaching heights of 6-10m with large roundish leaves divided into two lobes.
Bark: This evergreen tree develops a woody stem.
Leaves: The leaves are thick, deeply divided into two lobes and grow to 100mm long.
Flowers: Light pink to dark purple flowers 80-100mm wide mostly appearing from April to May.
Fruit/seeds: Produces 100-300mm long green seed pods which turn dark brown.

Does the plant have any uses?

Mostly planted as an ornamental for its attractive flowers

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